‘Pins and Needles‘, which has only been available through Amazon, is now in bookstores. It’s a really nice feeling, as I’m sure any author will agree. In Dublin south city centre it’s in Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street (where I hope you’ll be coming along to the offical launch on October 12). On the northside it’s in the Winding Stair on Ormond Quay near O’Connell Bridge. In the north Dublin suburbs you can get it in Manor Books of Malahide while in the south Dublin suburbs it’s in Alan Hanna’s in Rathmines and The Rathgar Bookshop in Rathgar. The book retails at €10.
Having walked the last stage of the Camino de Santiago along the lesser known and, therefore, less commercial Portuguese route to research my book Pins and Needles, I became somewhat of an accidental expert. In order that this knowledge shouldn’t go to waste I put together a 26 page booklet in pdf form giving some tips and information for anyone who’s considering putting a backpack on their back and setting off for a week on the ancient pilgrim trail. As you’ll see from the guide, I thoroughly recommend it for all sort so reasons. You can download the free pdf here. Buen camino!
Because I’m in Rome, I’ve been sitting in a little delight-of-a-trattoria, sampling a pear and walnut salad with Gorgonzola.
Because I’m in Rome I’ve been sitting near the open window to escape the heat. When I left Dublin this morning it was wintry and I feel that getting acclimatised will take a while.
I’ve been observing the quandary of a woman and her car, which had been parked front-to-footpath in the appropriate fashion outside.
Because this is Rome, she returned to find herself practically trapped into the parking space by a large people-carrier vehicle, parked in manner that is illegal, even in Rome.
Because she is clearly from Rome, she didn’t make a fuss but, instead, took a deep breath and began to attempt the Houdini-like escape feat of extracting her vehicle from between a motorcycle, a car and the thoughtlessly parked black monster.
In a true spirit of Roman humanity, a man appeared on the scene from nowhere and began to wave, shout, coax, gesticulate and cajole the woman and her car through the intricate set of manoeuvres that he felt would set them both free. Being Rome, a small crowd of assistants, supervisors and onlookers soon joined in. He who had been first to step up to the task was not to be unseated from his heroic status, however. He persisted until, between his somewhat ambiguous directions and the driver’s growing nervousness at the scene she was causing, he had contrived to leave her wedged tightly between all three vehicles.
To me the situation seemed hopeless. But, this being Rome, the woman’s savior was not to be outdone.
“I’ll move it,” he announced, and, taking the keys of the offending black people carrier monster out of his pocket, he did so, putting the twenty minute struggle to an abrupt and satisfactory end.
This being Rome, nobody seemed perplexed.
The books are back from the printer so I’ve been able to nail down the launch date. Because the novel is set against the Camino de Santiago, I’ve decided on nice Spanish wine and nibbles. I realise that some of you reading this may have a slight difficulty flying into Dublin from the Pacific coast of the USA for a glass of wine and to say ‘hi’ but if you happen to be in or near Dublin, I do hope that you’ll pop along. Don’t worry, you won’t be pressurised into anything. It’s just a celebration that the thing got finished – and I love the job the the printer has done 🙂 Put the date in your diary – October 12, 6pm Hodges and Figgis on Dawson Street.
I’m feeling rather stupid. I consider myself pretty web-smart. My junk mail filters rival those criss-crossing infrared lights that protect the Crown Jewels. Ocean’s 11, 12, 13 or, in fact, any number of accomplices would have a tough job sneaking a scam mail into my inbox. And, should one slip through, I raise my one still-functioning eyebrow in bemusement at the thought that someone honestly thought they could scam me with an improbable story about unclaimed millions waiting for my greedy co-operation to unlock. So, as I said, I’m feeling rather stupid.
I’m awaiting a delivery from Lithuania. I was told that it would be here today but I was told neither what time to expect the delivery nor given any tracking number nor phone line to make inquiries. So, when my phone rang an hour or so ago and an unrecognised international number displayed onscreen I nearly dropped it in my haste to answer. Despite my lightning fingers, there was nobody on the other end. I rang back. I got an international tone and then, success. I was through to the mystery caller. At least, I was through to some noises, squeaks and whistles. I presumed that it was difficulty with the overseas connection and persisted for a while before deciding to hang up and try again.
I’ve spent the past hour trying to answer calls that rang only once or twice and then dialling the numbers to track down the poor, lost, Lithuanian delivery man who must, I felt, be tired, hungry and frustrated with his undelivered consignment keeping him in this strange rainy land, far from his… well, you get the picture. It was when I finally managed to answer a call and heard an un-Lithuanian-sounding woman’s voice saying: “Please hold the line to hear news that will benefit you from our financial controller…” before the line went dead, that a memory stirred. The language might have been a reading from one of those scam emails I so scornfully dodged as a matter of course. I checked the country codes in my call log of the numbers that had phoned me and, more pertinently, that I had phoned back. “222” – Mauritania and “248” – Seychelles. My geography is not at a level that would see me competing on a general knowledge tv game show but it is sufficiently rounded enough to recall that neither Mauritania nor Seychelles are in Eastern Europe. A quick Google search revealed the truth.
This scam works on a baiting principle. The mark, in this case me, gets a phone call from a foreign number and, driven by innocent curiosity, calls it back. There are a range of possible ploys at the other end of the line to keep the mark from hanging up because, the number dialled is a premium number and the international premium call is costing a fortune. It’s not even illegal because the poor fool has voluntarily made the phone call.
My Lithuanian package has still not arrived but I probably can’t afford it, anyway, now…
“I’m glad he’s moving out of that house because of the ghosts.”
We were on a family holiday – the last before my Dad died – in Dingle and my sister was on the phone to my brother who, having been detained in Dublin, was to join us the following day. I had mentioned over dinner, in passing, that I was leaving the 240 year old Georgian house that I’d been renting in Drogheda for the previous three years to move back to Dublin.
“What ghosts?” was my sister’s predictable response.
My brother went on to explain that, within days of me moving in, he’d called to visit unannounced and found nobody home. He’d crossed the street to take a photograph with the disposable film cameras that he still used – his technophobia ruling out such modern contraptions as digital cameras or smartphones. The photograph was to show his girlfriend my new seven level home, which came complete with servants attics, cellars and servants’ quarters. There was even a bell pull beside each fireplace which rang a bell in the servants’ quarters to tell them where they were required. It was not until the photograph was developed that my brother noticed the two figures behind the net curtain in the lower window. Rather than upset me, he had a Mass said and told me nothing.
My sister instructed my brother to bring the picture with him to Dingle where we all poured over it. I took a photograph of the photograph and was able, therefore, to zoom in closer. A few days after moving in I painted the front door bright red so the photograph was definitely taken within the first few days. While I was sure that there must be a rational explanation, I was keenly aware that, until more than a week after the painting of the door, there wasn’t a stick of furniture in the that room. What’s more, I’d changed the locks so there was nobody in the house while I was absent that day.
“When you have removed all possibilities, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth,” had claimed Conan Doyle’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (or words to that effect). Therefore, I concluded, there were two possibilities. Either the ghost-like figures were, in fact, a reflection from across the street or… well, the alternative was unthinkable.
As soon as we returned to Dublin I wasted no time in driving to Drogheda. I crossed the street to the exact spot where my brother had stood and gazed across at the window. I can still recall the shiver that ran up my spine. Because a series of steps ran up from street level to the door, the window sill was at head height from the street. What’s more, the glass in the windows been countless decades old, like the glass in the the upper windows, it was warped and reflected the sky rather than anything on the street. I stretched and jumped trying to catch the reflection of anything – perhaps a street lamp or the top of a building – but there was nothing that could have caused a reflection.
What added a further air of mystery to the puzzle of the photograph was my memory of the first few days spent in that house. I had found myself unable to spend the first night there alone, such was the sense of brooding oppression that I felt from it as the evening darkened into night. The following day I had returned familiarise myself with all the nooks and crannies under the courage of daylight. When I went into the servants’ quarters I was hit with a strong smell of pipe tobacco that I remembered from a neighbour’s house in my childhood. I couldn’t find anything that would explain the smell. I managed to stay there that night but on a sofa in the first floor living room after exorcising the place with my guitar and a raucous rendition of every Bob Marley song I knew (I know. Bob Marley? Somehow it seemed appropriate at the time). On the third day, probably the day that my brother took the photograph, I was gone until evening, organising heating oil, a bed and other such necessities. On my return I entered to find that the oppression had lifted. It wasn’t that it didn’t feel as though the house had a personality. It felt more as if it had decided to accept me.
I had a number of dinners and parties over the three years in that house with friends from Dublin staying over. I became quite used to hearing that they’d been ‘spooked out’ by something. I had two friends who would only stay if they shared a room which used to raise an eyebrow (I trick I can no longer perform since my eyebrow nerve was severed in my recent accident.
The final chapter in this tale came from my sister. Some weeks after I had left the house, the riddle of the ghostly photo unresolved, my sister was mentioning it to a friend in company and showing her the photo. A woman interjected.
“That was a priest and a young boy,” she said. “He used to call at the local orphanage and bring a different child with him on his rounds each week to give the boy a break from his routine.”
“She’s a medium,” my sister’s friend explained when the woman had moved away.
I’m looking at the picture now. I found it while looking for photos that I’d taken on my Camino trips while researching my “Pins and Needles” book. It still sends a shiver down my spine. It’s also giving me ideas for my next book…
The ‘powers-that-be’ suggested Thursday, October 12th would be suitable for the official launch of ‘Pins and Needles’ in Hodges Figgis – one of my favourite bookshops – on Dawson Street, just a stone’s throw from Trinity College Dublin. I made a series of phone calls to all my friends, checking their availability, and found that both of them are free 🙂 so, we’re locked in. The rest of the day was spent deciding on things like “plastic or glass wine glasses?”, “will I talk for few minutes or make a short video?”. With the book’s connection to the Camino de Santiago I’ve decided on Spanish wine and something along the lines of tapas. This prompted another string of ponderings on the nature of the latter. The main thing is, I guess, that the launch is on and I hope that you’ll be there to tell me if the wine choice was right and if the tapas hit the spot. Put it in your diary. It’s at 6pm in the aforementioned bookstore. I’ll be setting up a Facebook event so RSVP there. If we’re not Facebook friends then please rectify this situation :)You’ll find me here: http://facebook.com/declanjcassidy
In the meantime, someone got on to me to ask me if I was aware that my book is on sale on Ebay in Australia! Not only that, but it’s selling at $54. I had to check it out and, sure enough, there it is. At least it’s not going at a bargain-basement price 🙂
With today’s launch of the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ on Amazon, there’s now a preview available that you can read immediately before deciding if it’s for you. The link is below. I also want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who have bought the eBook or paperback and I really appreciate the feedback from those who have finished it. Thanks for passing it on too. The more readers the merrier 🙂
If those suited people in glass offices are having trouble ‘thinking outside the box’ all they need to do is spend a while with my Mum. I awoke, this morning, at her house where I was taking a turn in looking after her (my siblings and I do 24 hour shifts) to find that the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ had been launched and, already, pre-orders had been electronically zapped to waiting Kindle devices. As I helped Mum get ready for her Alzheimers day club, half my mind was on the productive morning I’d put in arranging some local press attention before picking her up in the afternoon.
“Just a minute,” Mum said at the front door as we were leaving. She disappeared upstairs and returned, a few minutes later, with a handful of books.
“I’ll bring these,” she said.
We were half way through the 20 minute drive when she gave a little, somewhat contrived cough.
“You’ll go in, won’t you?” she said.
I was unperturbed. Last week Mum had insisted that I brought a copy of my book to give to the staff and she had asked me to come inside with her to present it in person.
We pulled up on the tarmac outside the club. Mum produced another little cough.
“Now, you bring them in,” she said, offering me the books she’d brought.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“I’ve got a cough. Tell them I can’t go.”
As we headed to the shops the cough was forgotten.
“What do you do at the club?” I asked.
“Nothing. Everybody sits around and stares at a fish tank, counting the fish.”
She paused a moment before adding: “… and some of them are a bit…”
She tapped her head.
“… not all there.”
Since at least the year 1220 there have been Irish people leaving St James Gate – home, now, to Guinness – and heading by sea and land to Santiago de Compostela. Of course St James is the English name for San Tiago. I’d left St James’ Hospital a little dejected at having been told that post concussion dizziness and fatigue take on average 43 days to pass if you completely rest the brain or, on average, 100 days if you use your brain (that’s me, I fear, as I don’t know how to switch my brain off), when I saw the sign, pictured below, outside St James’ Church on St James’ Street.
There is an office, there, in the church, staffed by volunteers, giving information and documentation for those intending to walk the Camino de Santiago. I decided to drop in and see if any of them wanted to come to the book launch next month (date to be confirmed). A friendly chap there told me that, when excavating to build the Dublin City Council head office on the banks of the River Liffey they found thousands of scallop shells, such as those above that I photographed on the Portuguese way while researching Pins and Needles. According to the guy, it was customary for pilgrims arriving back in Dublin by boat from their Camino to Santiago to throw the shell that they’d carried for the entire trip overboard and this is what led to the huge number of them on what would have been the riverbed. I’d been surprised, when first arriving in Santiago, to find that Galicia is a Celtic culture and that the people there see themselves as being connected to us here in Ireland. It seems that our connection does, indeed, go back through the centuries.